West Lafayette, IN – Terone Johnson scored a career-best 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds and D.J. Byrd's hustle plays down the stretch propelled Purdue past No. 11 Illinois, 68-61, at Mackey Arena.
Byrd did more than just the little things, scoring 15 points and spearheading a defensive effort that held Illinois to 35.6 percent shooting. Jacob Lawson added 10 points and seven rebounds for Purdue (7-6, 1-0 Big Ten), which won its third straight.
"We just have to have consistency," said Purdue head coach Matt Painter. "Sometimes it takes a while to play together. Hopefully we can build off this."
Brandon Paul scored 15 points, Joseph Bertrand added 14 points and seven rebounds and Tracy Abrams recorded 12 points and five assists for Illinois (13-2, 0-1), which lost its eighth straight game to Purdue in the conference opener for both teams.
As hot as Illinois started the game, it was just as cold in the second half, making just 1-of-15 shots through one stretch and seeing a close game slip through its fingers.
The Illini held a 45-39 lead after Tyler Griffey's 3-pointer, but that was the high water mark for the visitors as the game swung in the opposite direction over the next eight-plus minutes.
Illinois scored just four points during that time period, and Purdue took the lead at 49-47 on Byrd's trey with just under eight minutes to go.
After seeing its lead cut to one, Purdue reeled off the next eight points with a 3-pointer by Byrd and a 3-point play from Johnson for a 55-48 lead. Ronnie Johnson followed his own miss with a tip-in for a 57-49 lead moments later.
The Boilermakers opened a 10-point lead, but Illinois quickly cut it to six on a free throw, a steal and a Paul 3-pointer for a 61-55 game. He added another trey after a turnover for a three-point game.
Trailing by five, D.J. Richardson connected on a 30-footer to make it a two- point game, 63-61. It was Richardson's only 3-pointer of the game, as he finished 1-of-6 from long range.
Lawson, who shot 34 percent from the charity stripe a season ago, missed two foul shots, but Byrd corralled the loose ball and called time out before falling out of bounds to keep possession. He continued the game-clinching stretch by grabbing the inbounds pass and scoring while getting bear-hugged, the beginning of a 3-point play for a 66-61 edge with 20.1 seconds left.
"One thing I will give our guys credit for is that we were down 10 and we fought and clawed our way back to get it to that free-throw block out, but our execution has got to get better," Illinois coach John Groce remarked.
Purdue held on for the win from there.
A back-and-forth opening half saw the Illini in front 28-24 after Griffey's slam, but Byrd answered with one of his four treys. Purdue tied the contest at 31-31 before Bertrand's bucket with 2:48 remaining gave Illinois a slim advantage. It marked the last points of the half.
Byrd was 4-of-9 from long range, while the rest of the Boilermakers were 2- of-7 ... Purdue held a 38-31 rebounding edge ... Richardson scored just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting ... Illinois has lost eight straight road conference games ... The Illini made 5-of-7 treys to open the game, but made just five of their last 19 attempts ... The killer early conference slate continues for Purdue on Saturday at Michigan State and back at Mackey Arena against Ohio State on Tuesday.